The modern affordability of Paleo

One of the common arguments against the Paleo diet is that it’s too expensive to maintain. The diet’s preference for grass-fed beef & game, wild-caught fish, local organic plants, eggs, fruits & nuts, and unfiltered raw honey has put a rather high price tag on the diet’s reputation. Things don’t get easier either when lots of Paleo recipes online call for almond flour, or coconut products (exotic products that are not available at all in many rural places, e.g. my hometown in Greece).

The truth is though that you don’t have to go for these types of food if you don’t have the money for it. If you really want to follow the diet’s core you can still buy the cheaper corn-fed meat, farmed fish, veggies and fruits from your local super-market. Even with this lower quality food, you’ll still be miles ahead than with the standard Western diet. And that’s something significant already, if you’re serious about your health. Remember, Paleo is not a weight loss diet, even if overweight people happen to lose weight on it. Paleo is a lifestyle, a return to balance and normalcy.

Since I started Paleo I’ve been swarming to local farmer’s markets. Most of the vegetables & fruits there are cheaper than in super markets, and of much higher quality and freshness. Because I don’t buy sugary/grain products anymore, and since I stopped going out to (starchy) restaurants, I believe we’ve saved money overall. I don’t buy higher quality meat & eggs yet, but I’m thinking of going towards that path too — although my husband still resists to the idea.

One thing that got me thinking is that if Paleo was the prescribing diet for a number of “modern-world” ailments in the Victorian Era, it wouldn’t have been feasible to follow it — unless you were an aristocrat or a rich businessman. While fish, game and good quality farm meat would have been easy to find, plants and fruits were difficult to find in that era. Pretty much, the only mass-produced non-grain plants that grew well in UK were tubers, which are loaded with starch. As for fruits & honey, they would be rare and expensive to find in the market. Just think how good we have it nowdays, where the various foods are easily available.

And this brings me to the Mediterranean diet, which is named by some nutritionists as the “healthiest diet in the world” (especially the Cretan version). The Mediterranean diet is not that healthy actually (especially these days). It’s simply healthier than the standard Western diet because people could produce a lot of different veggies & fruits and nuts and honey on their own — since the weather allowed it. They were blessed to be part of the advanced Europe and maximize their yields. This led to a somewhat balanced diet between fresh produce & wild plants, and starches.

Judging to how my grand parents lived, and how my parents grew up, there was some bread, rice and pasta, but it was overrun with plenty of fresh veggies from their own garden, even more wild greens (e.g. amaranth greens, sorrel), cheese & lactose-free probiotic yogurt from their goats or sheep (they’d go up to the mountain all by themselves and come back alone at night), eggs from their own free range chickens, fish from the river, and some meat occasionally (either from a goat that broke a leg and had to be killed off, a hen getting too old to have eggs… or some game like wild birds, hares, and boars found in the mountain above the village). Sugary products were extremely rare. Even fruits were rather rare, except when in season.

So there was some balance there. I started hearing about uber-modern diseases (e.g. multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia) in these villages in the late ’80s. “Cancer” was a word I didn’t hear before 1985 in respect to my local people. Before that, most people there would just die of natural causes (with stroke and heart-related disease following). In my opinion, the Mediterranean diet only has a positive effect when you live the kind of hard life these people lived, and use that high quality of plants and meat they had. But it’s still not an ideal diet.

If the Mediterranean diet is, let’s say, 25% better than the Standard Western one, then Paleo is many times as good. Paleo is believed to be able to reverse some “incurable” modern diseases, and heal the body after years of grain & sugar abuse. The forums are full of accounts of people who had various conditions reversed (and I’m on that camp too). The few cases of heart-disease or strokes that took down these Mediterranean people before the ’80s (when the Mediterranean diet became Westernized and hence worse), could have been avoided if these people were Paleo- or Primal-dieting (they could have kept their yogurt & cheese). All they had to really do is to say “no” to the tons of grain products that “International Help” gave away to families, especially in mountain villages.

I was extremely surprised when I saw someone this past Summer in Greece taking out of his pantry a large pasta box and a big bag of rice. I took a good look, because I wasn’t accustomed to see such quantity at someone’s home pantry. These were not commercial bags of food. They were sent from the European Union to “poor” Greek families (not that poor btw). I really had no idea that grains were pouring into Greece in these modern times too (despite the financial crisis). I thought that the “international help” of food stopped in the ’80s. But no. They continue raking people’s lives and health with their free non-food foods: “let’s give everyone cheap food. And make them all eventually sick and skyrocket the health system’s costs instead.”

In all truth, grains are easy to produce, and so it does sustain the world’s population in one way or another. Without grains all the 7 billion of us on this planet would be unsustainable. But instead of feeding people undigestable crap, maybe we should rethink about our (exploding) numbers first. I prefer quality, not quantity. And that goes about people too, not just food.


Ivan wrote on September 21st, 2011 at 6:22 AM PST:

I’m a huge fan of the ‘100 mile food’ diet (don’t remember the exact wording): You shouldn’t eat what has been produced further than 100 miles from where you live. By that, you get to appreciate the local food, you inject your money in the local economy, and your carbon footprint stays small. Also, the idea of supporting the local (small scale) entrepreneur, rather than a large, multinational company, I find particularly attractive. Where I live – rural Belgium – every local farmer has potato fields, but when we buy potatoes in our local supermarked, most of them are imported from … Egypt. Can you image how much the shipping must cost?

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Eugenia wrote on September 21st, 2011 at 8:36 AM PST:

Another important reason for eating local, especially for people in rural places, is immunity. When you eat the same things that an animal eats too, you can get immunity to each other. For example, a cobra biting a tourist would probably kill him if left untreated. A cobra biting a local person, he’ll probably live easily.

KB wrote on September 21st, 2011 at 1:47 PM PST:

I would be careful following any fad diet, which is what the paleo diet is.

What leads you to believe that our diet causes multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia? And why are these uber-modern diseases? Just because you didn’t hear about these diseases before the 1980s, doesn’t mean they didn’t exist without diagnosis. As for cancer, it was Hippocrates who named it “carcinos.”

Also, eating rats, frogs, birds, and snakes does not mean you will easily survive a cobra bite.

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Eugenia wrote on September 21st, 2011 at 2:14 PM PST:

First of all, Paleo is not a fad diet. It’s the most natural diet there is: the one that our ancestors followed. The one we evolved with. The standard wheat/sugar diet people are following en mass is what’s fad. Did you miss my blog post last week about my health?!?

As for “modern diseases”, this is a term used to mean diseases that started happening after the Agricultural Revolution 10,000 years ago, not 10 or 100 years ago. 10,000 years is just 335 generations ago and only represents 0.4% of the human evolution and history. That’s where the “modern diseases” term comes from.

Also, you don’t have to eat the exact same things a cobra eats in order to generate some immunity to it. Just eat things that are local to both you and the cobra. Nature’s life circle will do the rest.

KB wrote on September 21st, 2011 at 4:19 PM PST:

1. Fad diet: A diet that has become popularized recently, claimed by some to be a cure-all diet. When did you hear about the paleo diet?

I could come up with a diet where we only eat insects and larvae, and say that’s what we evolved with. Then when anyone questioned my diet, I’d just say that’s what we evolved with.

2. Is this a definition that you came up with? And where is the evidence of which diseases existed or didn’t exist before the agricultural revolution?

3. “Just eat things that are local to both you and the cobra. Nature’s life circle will do the rest.” This is the most unscientific thing I’ve heard in quite some time and shows that your arguments are feeling-based rather than evidence-based.

I’m not saying that the paleo diet is unhealthy, or that people with certain medical conditions or dietary restrictions would do well to adopt certain aspects of it, I’m just trying to caution you and other people about the dangers of following fad diets.

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Eugenia wrote on September 21st, 2011 at 4:49 PM PST:

>When did you hear about the paleo diet?

10 years ago. But I only started it recently, because I only recently found a lot of accounts of people with a condition like mine that became asymptomatic following the diet. Low and behold, I got asymptomatic within 3 days. Again, read my other blog post about my health, posted last week. It explains the whole thing and how I got to find the solution.

>Is this a definition that you came up with?

No, it’s a definition that it’s used quite a lot out there.

>And where is the evidence of which diseases existed or didn’t exist before the agricultural revolution?

Read books. I can’t give you many online references because I’ve read it books. SOME of these diseases did exist, e.g. cancer, but they were VERY rare. Today, such diseases (e.g. IBS) are almost epidemic. Up to 20-25% of the western population has gut issues for example!

>I’m just trying to caution you and other people about the dangers of following fad diets.

Oh, I believe that fad diets (e.g. the cabbage soup diet) are very dangerous. But not Paleo, Primal or SCD. These were the ORIGINAL diets for the human species, the ones we evolved with.

I preach the gospel because this diet brought me health in numerous parts of myself that were ill (not just IBS), in ways that doctors never were able to. The diet works, and it works not only for obvious gut issues or diabetes type II (which we all know that are correlating to what we eat), but also in ways that people don’t even realize that their diet had anything to do with their condition (e.g. eczema, and reportedly even asthma).

As I wrote elsewhere, in most other diets people are usually saying things like “whoa! I lost 10 lbs”, but in Paleo/Primal/SCD people comment with things like “my fibromyalgia almost gone!”, or “I cured a tooth cavity all by myself”.

Look into it.

KB wrote on September 23rd, 2011 at 8:43 AM PST:

Like I said, maybe it is working for you at the moment and maybe it works for some people, but caution should be used:

“*Skyrocketing total cholesterol and LDL – jury is still out on long-term effects of super-high cholesterol from eating paleo and high in animal fats.

*Fat soluble vitamin poisoning (or just elevated blood levels of retinol, D) from high consumption through foods combined with supplementation.

*Worsened hypothyroid symptoms (likely from neglecting to find a reliable iodine source after no longer consuming processed foods with lots of iodized salt), or even development of hypothyroid after becoming paleo. Always seen with VLC/ZC (tons of meat)…

*Severe lack of appetite on a VLC diet higher in fat and protein, leading to chronic undereating and often to exhaustion, lack of endurance, and muscle loss.

*Serious exacerbation of OCD and eating disordered tendencies (usually pre-existing) leading to debilitating anxiety and guilt surrounding food, and/or to increasing amounts of self-deprivation (most commonly zero carb and/or ‘fasting’) which usually causes various serious health side effects (extreme weight loss to emaciation, depression/anxiety, and infertility/amenorrhea being the most common).

*Weight/fat gain due to believing the people who say calories don’t matter and eating a high-cal, high-fat diet.

*Disturbed sleep/insomnia. Usually caused by ketosis.

*Constipation or diarrhea/extremely soft stool, or even both alternating. Caused by high protein/no starch.

For lean/thin individuals particularly, who eat low or zero carb though often higher in calories.:

*Muscle wasting, unintended weight loss to extreme/unhealthy levels

*Hormonal imbalances for both sexes, amenorrhea and infertility in women

*Exhaustion and lack of endurance, inability to recover from workouts

*Persistent hypoglycemic issues while in ketosis/eating low carb, no matter how long they try to tough out the ‘low-carb flu’. Including low blood pressure/faintness, headaches/migraines, brain fog, slurred speech, irritability and anxiety, etc.”

I think a key thing to be mindful is the long term effects of this diet. The Mediterranean diet, for example, has an enormous amount of epidemiological data and has been in practice for a number of years under the watchful eye of science. The interest in the paleo diet in today’s world is fairly new in comparison, so there isn’t enough data to determine its healthfulness in the long term.

Another thing to think about is life span over 10,000 years ago. There have been too many advances in medicine to determine where the additional years come from, but one thing is for certain: As we age, we’re more likely to suffer from “modern diseases,” such as cancer, fibromyalgia, and multiple sclerosis. So it’s true that these disease would be less frequent than they are today. And with a smaller global population, the amount of people with these diseases would be even smaller.

(cancer: 67 years, fibromyalgia 34 – 53 years, MS: 34 years)

That is all, I’m done arguing.

Ivan wrote on September 23rd, 2011 at 10:38 AM PST:

I wouldn’t call the paleodiet a ‘fad’ as it has been around for about 1 million years…, in fact, it is the other way round: farming has been around for only 10,000 years, so all diets based farm produce are fads…

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Eugenia wrote on September 23rd, 2011 at 12:24 PM PST:

KB, you’re talking utter crap. Paleo FIXES the VERY issues you’re mentioning!!! Soft stool and diarrhea? And amenorrhea BECAUSE of Paleo?

Get your facts straight!

Paleo FIXED my (and many other people’s) gut issues, it didn’t cause it. Paleo FIXED my period, it didn’t make it bad. And I sleep like a baby. Muscle is not lost on Paleo, fat is, because the body learns to use fat rather than storing it (as it does when eating carbs). The rest of your list is as laughable too.

You obviously didn’t even read the blog post I told you to read, if you’re coming here to sprout bullshit to me about diarrhea. If there’s one person that knows about diarrhea, that’s me. I produced for 10 full years free fertilizing for the world! I’d know better than you if Paleo fixes diarrhea, or causes it.

I hope you’re not one of these vegans who constantly argue about Paleo btw. I lived with a vegan in the ’90s btw, I followed his diet for the most part (mostly vegetarian). It produced ZERO good health effects to me. Paleo did, in just 3 weeks. Get over it.

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Eugenia wrote on September 23rd, 2011 at 5:57 PM PST:

KB, do me a freaking favor and READ these comments (the early ones, where people talk about their ailments, not the last few about “vegan vs paleo” stupid comments). These are REAL people replying there, in the beginning of the conversation (click a number of times to “view previous comments” to get to the beginning). These are not actors, not paid off, not fanatics. They are people who HAD ailments, and now, they don’t.

Then, after you read these real world testimonials, and only then, talk.

Michael C. wrote on September 26th, 2011 at 12:18 PM PST:

From your other posting: “Dry wine is fine on the SCD diet, since it has little to no sugar. I don’t personally drink alcohol, so it’s not an issue for me.” – Maybe this is your problem. Alcohol is known to break fat. In many cultures fatty meal comes with alcohol. Maybe alcohol helps to digest other stuff. Also, they say that a glass of red wide a day won’t hurt you and is actually good for the heart.

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Eugenia wrote on September 26th, 2011 at 12:40 PM PST:

No, alcohol is not needed, neither I have any problem with fat. I never had. My problems were with grains & sugars, as it was revealed by the diet I’m now on.

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